message.<@SM>Shibuya: The merger clicked all
the right boxes.
(Save the date: RealShare Apartments comes to the Westin Bonaventure, Los Angeles, October 24.)
LOS ANGELES-A massive global rebranding is taking place at UGL, a company that managing director and CEO Richard Leupen admits had suffered from a sort of identity crisis. Known in the states as a property firm, its Australian reputation (the corporate home base is in Sydney) has long been as an engineering operation.
The days of confusion, however, are apparently over. As Leupen tells GlobeSt.com exclusively among industry publications, starting today, the global firm is being rebranded DTZ, a UGL Company, and landlords, government clients and corporate users around the globe will now look simply to DTZ for all of their property needs, all of which will be headquartered here under the guidance of group president Robert Shibuya, the nearly 30-year industry veteran who headed DTZ America prior to the acquisition. (He has also filled executive roles at Cushman & Wakefield, Trammell Crow and CBRE.)
The rebranding announcement, first made this morning for the Shanghai markets, is the culmination of a months-long process of planning. UGL took ownership of the troubled DTZ in early December 2011. “We bought it when the firm was really at the end of its financial capacity and needed a new owner,” Leupen explains.
Almost immediately, the firm went from public watch list to pulling in massive business, with investors confident of a new, stable ownership. In fact, investors have since infused some $1 billion into its fund management business. In fact, its newly released annual statement reveals a property services firm that boasts $2 billion in revenue and a global staff of 27,000 full-time employees and 15,000 contracted workers.
Stability of a brand that might be the oldest in global commercial real estate (DTZ was founded in Manchester in 1784, four years after Australia was settled by the British) was key to Leupen, who recognized the importance of letting everyone—employees and clients—know “that business was back to normal and DTZ was stable again.”
Shibuya says that while the merger aided DTZ, it also filled some global coverage cracks for the acquiring company. “Essentially, we needed to be bigger in Asia,” he says. “And while we had business alliances in Europe, there were no formal relationships.” The acquisition “clicked all of the boxes.”
Going forward, while certain policy decisions might emanate from the parent’s Sydney HQ, all functional support, such as IT, Finance, HR and Legal for DTZ will be L.A.-based. Leupen explains that post-rebranding, there are essentially two companies: “A $2-billion, 50,000-person property business based in Los Angeles and “a $3-billion engineering company based in Sydney and serving as the umbrella organization. A massive IT platform will be rolled out in the medium term for the US and then globally over the course of the next year, he notes.
The CEO explains that the rebranding alone was a multi-million-dollar enterprise, considering the global breadth and the need to rework everything from signage on cars to uniforms. “We dress 45,000 people,” he notes.
Leupen is confident that the results will be worth the effort and expense although he admits there is a long way to go. Despite the firm’s already existing US property services footprint—not only the year-old L.A. office but the services gained through acquisitions of Chicago-based Equis in 2006 and Unicco in Boston the following year, he says, “some people still think of us as the new boy on the block.”
Long term, DTZ needs to be two to three times larger. “In transactional brokerage, we’re now Number 15. We need to be in the Top 5. In facilities management, we need to be in the Top 3.”
And while he notes that the goal is less emphatic of size than it is quality, he sees DTZ hitting those numbers within the decade. Maybe sooner: “Come back in five years. Everyone will know what DTZ is.”